(Sports Network) - After falling to nationally-ranked Florida in the season opener, the RedHawks were thrown a bone last weekend when they hosted Eastern Michigan, a team that failed to win a single game last season. The result of the meeting was a 28-21 victory for Miami, not to mention a leg up in the Mid-American Conference standings since it was a league matchup.
This time around the RedHawks are tasked with taking on Colorado State, a program that entering this week was suffering from the third-longest losing streak in the nation at 11 games, trailing only EMU (14) and Western Kentucky (22). After a full two games the Rams have yet to make it into the end zone, scoring a total of just nine points versus Colorado (24-3) in the opener and Nevada (51-6) last weekend.
Miami won the first meeting between these two teams back in 2003 by a score of 41-21.
Trying to find positives for the Colorado State offense is a tough task, seeing as how the squad is the lowest-scoring team in the nation at the moment with a mere 4.5 ppg. Last Saturday, the team picked up a pair of field goals by kicker Ben DeLine as they struggled to register 272 yards of total offense. Pete Thomas was bound to struggle this year at quarterback, but taking so many hits wasn't exactly in the plan. The signal-caller converted 23-of-36 passes for 194 yards and was intercepted once, but he was also sacked five times which means the offensive line is permitting an average of four sacks per game. Add that to the number of times Thomas has been pressured and knocked down after plays and it is far too much contact for any one player to absorb at the position. Unfortunately for Thomas, the so-called rushing attack has done little to provide relief, generating a mere 63.5 ypg to rank seventh in the Mountain West Conference and 115th in the nation after two weeks.
Last season, the Rams took down the Nevada Wolf Pack early in the campaign, so this time around it was clear to everyone that CSU was going to suffer some payback. What the Rams didn't count on was Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick making a play for conference player of the week with his 161 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and another 241 yards and two scores through the air. Colorado State could do little more than watch as the defense was exposed play after play, permitting a total of 631 yards of offense to the Pack in Reno. Even more disturbing was the fact that CSU, outside of the final possession of the game, allowed Nevada to score each time the home team had the ball. It is an ugly scene for the Rams on defense right now, ranked 109th in the country with 469 ypg allowed and it will only get worse in the coming weeks with the team forced to play TCU and Air Force in back-to-back weeks in early October. With linebacker Mychal Sisson dealing with a knee injury early on, the news fails to improve for the unit.
Thomas Merriweather handled much of the action for the Miami offense against Eastern Michigan last week, registering his team's first touchdown and then wrapping up with two more scores to get the RedHawks over the top in the 28-21 final. Merriweather carried the ball 15 times and finished with 105 yards for the home team, while quarterback Zac Dysert converted 16-of-25 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown as well. Miami managed to make it into the win column despite converting just three third-down plays on the night. The effort by Merriweather was a welcomed change to his lackluster play in the opener against Florida when he carried the ball five times and was rewarded with minus-two yards for his efforts. Then again, the effort against EMU was better than anything he had accomplished all of last season when he gained only 291 yards and scored three times on 105 carries overall. In the case of Dysert, his one pick was certainly better than the five he tossed at Florida and considering he had just five touchdowns and 16 INTs last season, the Miami faithful shouldn't be expecting that much of a turnaround this year.
The Miami defense was caught off guard by receiver Josh LeDuc who not only had a catch for a touchdown but also tossed a score to Kinsman Thomas to make things interesting last Saturday. But in the end the RedHawks still sent the Eagles to the loss column yet again. Ryan Kennedy had a strong game for Miami as he tallied a team-best 14 tackles, two of which came behind the line of scrimmage, while Austin Brown had 2.5 TFLs of his own and added a sack and a forced fumble along the way. Just two games into the season and Brown already has some stats that players would be jealous of, having logged 3.5 TFLs and recovered a fumble. Now, if Brown can just get his fellow defenders to step up the pressure in the second quarter of games, seeing as how the squad has permitted a total of 28 points in that period and just 27 points in the other three frames combined.
Miami might not be the toughest opponent on the schedule for the Rams this season, but having to travel to Ohio certainly won't be an easy task for a young team like CSU. Expect more struggles from Thomas and the Colorado State offense, just enough to let the RedHawks get by.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Miami-Ohio 24, Colorado State 10
Saturday, September 18th, 3:30 p.m. (et).